I thought some of you might be interested in what it looked like for me to write my first novel.
I began my 130,000-word fantasy novel for school…kind of. “Writing the Novel,” the much-anticipated class required for OU’s professional writing degree, started in the fall. However, I jumped in to my novel the summer before.
What can I say? I couldn’t wait! I spent the summer hammering out a general outline, plus the first few chapters of the book. So:
Summer ’10 – I wrote the outline. The outline was not comprehensive – if anything, it was a mere skeleton of the story. It included the backstory, introduction, a handful of central plot points that moved the story along, and the conclusion. The outline continuously guided me to the next big thing, but hammering out the murky places in between was a do-as-I-go process.
August – December ’10 – I wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote. Even when I hated it, I kept going. I didn’t edit as I wrote – my professor insisted we would get too hung up on little mistakes, and probably not finish the manuscript, if we didn’t simply plow through. He wanted us to prove to ourselves we could do what seemed so out of reach – finish – before we nit-picked at details.
I finished the required 50,000 words demanded for class halfway through the semester, but I was only halfway done with the novel.
January ’11 – May ’11 – I wrote the ending, since it was required for class whether or not we had completed the manuscript, but I was about four to five chapters shy of actually completing the first draft of my novel.
May ’11 – June ’11 – First draft, complete! I took a break from the manuscript for a little while, then moved on.
July ’11 – September ’11 – I began the draft number two, which meant running a wide-toothed comb through the story to fix glaringly obvious mistakes, fill in plot gaps, add in chapters that needed to exist and didn’t, and rewrite scenes. It was pretty frustrating at times.
September ’11 – I found out I was pregnant! Chris and I were extremely joyful. However, I experienced profound sleepiness at all hours of the day during the first trimester of my pregnancy. After that, I pretty much dropped writing until after the baby was born, so distracted was I by this new phase of life.
Fast forward 8 months…
Our first child, Ellie, was born!
Fast forward 1 more month…
I decided to jump back into novel writing full-force. Not least because enough people were speaking doom and gloom over my life, and how it was going to crawl to a standstill once the baby was born – I really wanted to prove them wrong (And I did! HA! Take that, you naysayers)! My awesome husband made sure to give me a solid three hours to write, twice a week, away from the house at a coffee shop while he cared for the baby.
June ’12 – September ’12 – I finished the second draft, which meant the novel was really, truly finished and in a complete, coherent, readable form. I was pretty excited about this, and psyched myself up to send off the manuscript to an agent.
September ’12 – Beta Reader 1 suggested significant structural changes. I had a meltdown, after which I ate an entire banana split all by my lonesome. I sent a query letter to one agent to test the waters. I haven’t heard back, yet. If I don’t hear back from him, I’ll return to the manuscript and make the suggested changes in *deep breath* DRAFT THREE, and that will definitely take a few more months at the least. As I am fond of saying, blarglesnorfs.
October ’12 – I’m waiting to get feedback from Beta Readers 3 & 4 (2 just emailed me with an extremely comprehensive commentary, which was simultaneously awesome and overwhelming), as well as hear from the above-mentioned agent. Until then, I’m working on the serial that I’ve already mentioned far too many times in previous posts.
And that, my friends, is what it looked like for me to write my first novel. It’s been a rollercoaster ride of a relationship, but – as I know on my more clearheaded days – worth every minute. I’m a much better writer for having completed the project, and it’s an accomplishment to have finished at all. As the fortune cookie paper taped to my laptop reads, “Do not let great ambitions overshadow small success.” So, even if nothing ever comes of the thing (eh, it could go on Kindle, at the least), here’s to the acquired skills that I couldn’t have learned in any class or workshop, skills that come from practice.
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